Many Puerto Ricans have been displaced since Hurricane Maria hit and devastated the island. The natural disaster swept a lot of people’s homes in September—especially in rural villages. Many fled to Florida or New York for temporary shelter. On Saturday, a federal judge temporarily blocked the government from ending housing aid to Puerto Ricans that have been living on the mainland due to the Hurricane.
According to reports, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is not able to end the program just yet because U.S. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin extended the program for another few days. FEMA is now even extending its transportation assistance program. This covers the cost of airfare, luggage and even pet fees for Puerto Ricans who return to the island.
The extension was made out of fear of putting Puerto Rican evacuees “at risk of homelessness and other irreparable injury,” FEMA states. Apparently New York City is really trying to do its part to help. According to the New York Times, the city has been spending an average of $222 to house a family in a hotel. This also includes offering employment counseling and mental health services.
“The Trump Administration abandoned the people of Puerto Rico,” Jaclyn Rothenberg, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio told the New York Times. “Our mayor will not. We will shelter our fellow U.S. citizens, and we will do all we can to help them to get back on their feet.”
Denise Collazo, chief of staff of LatinoJustice, believes that Puerto Ricans being offered one-way plane tickets back to the island will only result in further homelessness and distress.
“If this eviction goes fourth, it will do irreparable harm to people who have already suffered so much,” she said in a statement. “Thousands of people lost homes, jobs, cars, places to go to school, and are suffering unnecessarily … FEMA can end this by activating the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) now.”
The Hurricane happened in September but the island is in many ways still devastated. At least 5,000 Puerto Ricans are living without electricity. Many are out of work. And the after affects have resulted in a drastic depression and suicide rate on the island. Close to 1,744 Puerto Ricans fled to NYC for temporary housing and will be greatly affected if not given enough extensions. These people need all the support they can get as they try to rebuild their lives.